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Playing at Weddings: Hold the Macerena

MU National Organiser for Live Performance, Dave Webster, discusses how it does now seem possible for some live music to take place at weddings in England only – however it’s unlikely that anyone will be doing The Macerena any time soon.

Published: 09 July 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:31 PM
Female violinist playing at a garden wedding
The new guidance has a section specifically on singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Government has released new guidance on small marriages and civil partnerships.

This guidance is applicable in any location at which a legally binding marriage or civil partnership can take place. These include, among the various permitted places:

  • Register Offices
  • Approved premises for civil marriages and civil partnerships (that is, places approved by the local authority of the area in which the premises are situated)
  • Church of England churches or chapels
  • Certified places of worship that have been registered for the solemnisation of marriage (“registered buildings”)
  • Naval, military or air force chapels.

It is not to be interpreted as guidance for the reception at the hotel afterwards. In fact, it specifically advises against large receptions and parties afterwards.

Specific guidance for musicians

For musicians the new guidance has a section specifically on singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments, which states:

  • People should avoid singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets.
  • Spoken responses during marriages or civil partnerships should also not be in a raised voice.
  • Activities such as singing, chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided. This is because there is a possible additional risk of infection in environments where individuals are singing or chanting as a group, and this applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.
  • Where required for the marriage or civil partnership, only one individual should be permitted to sing or chant, and the use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect guests, as this will further prevent transmission and the screen can be easily cleaned.
  • We recognise the importance of communal singing in marriages or civil partnerships, and as this should not happen at this time, we suggest you consider using recordings that may be available to you.
  • You are advised only to play musical instruments that are not blown into. Organs can be played for a ceremony, as well as general maintenance, but should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.

The government and the medical and scientific communities are urgently engaged in research around transmission risk and how such activities can best be managed safely, and further guidance will follow when available.

So, in conclusion – at this stage if you play a stringed instrument, piano, anything that isn't woodwind, brass or vocals, you can work accompanying a wedding ceremony – provided government guidelines are observed.

Take Action to Protect Musicians

Accompaniment work may provide some relief to a number of musicians – but many individual freelancers need Government financial support, now.

Ask the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to protect all self-employed workers, and ensure no musician is left behind.

You can use our template letter if you're not sure what to say. Remember to include how you are affected too. Personal stories make all the difference.

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Brexit Lobbying Update

An update following the debate held in Westminster Hall on enabling visa and work permit free travel for musicians in the EU, with renewed calls from MPs for the Government to sort out remaining issues for musicians.

Published: 23 November 2021

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